US & Canada

Warmbier: Professor fired for saying he 'got what he deserved'

Otto Warmbier Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Warmbier was jailed for 15 years for attempting to steal a propaganda sign

A Delaware college has severed ties with a professor who said a student who was held by North Korea and later died "got exactly what he deserved".

Kathy Dettwyler sparked a backlash on Facebook when she wrote Otto Warmbier was "typical of a mindset of a lot of young, white, rich, clueless males".

Mr Warmbier, 22, died a week after he was freed by North Korea, where he was serving 15 years hard labour.

He was medically evacuated earlier this month and died in a coma.

Ms Dettwyler, an anthropology professor at the University of Delaware, criticised Mr Warmbier in a post on her Facebook page, blaming his parents for what happened to him.

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Media captionMr Warmbier, fourth from right, is seen shortly before his arrest

"These are the same kids who cry about their grades because they didn't think they'd really have to read and study the material to get a good grade," she wrote.

"His parents ultimately are to blame for his growing up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted."

"Maybe in the US, where young, white, rich, clueless white males routinely get away with raping women," she continued.

"Not so much in North Korea. And of course, it's Otto's parents who will pay the price for the rest of their lives."

Mr Warmbier, an economics student from the University of Virginia, was accused of trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

North Korea said it released Mr Warmbier on "humanitarian grounds" and claimed the student had contracted botulism, a rare illness that causes paralysis, after he was given a sleeping pill.

But a team of doctors who assessed him in Cincinnati said they had found "no sign of botulism" and that Mr Warmbier had suffered "severe neurological injury" of unknown cause.

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Media captionOtto Warmbier's father, wearing his son's jacket, told reporters last week his son had been treated "brutally"

Before Ms Dettwyler's post was removed, it was shared by thousands of users, including some who said they would not send their children to the university because of her comments.

The college said in a statement on Sunday it would not re-hire Ms Dettwyler to teach "in the future".

The school said in an earlier statement that Ms Dettwyler's comments were "particularly distressing and inconsistent with our values".

"We condemn any and all messages that endorse hatred and convey insensitivity toward a tragic event such as the one that Otto Warmbier and his family suffered," the school said.


Timeline of events

  • 30 Dec 2015 - Mr Warmbier travels from Beijing to Pyongyang with a tour group.
  • 2 Jan 2016 - He is arrested at Pyongyang International Airport as he tries to leave the country. Later that month, North Korea announces it is holding Mr Warmbier for a "hostile act".
  • 16 March 2016 - Mr Warmbier goes on trial in Pyongyang where he confesses to stealing a propaganda poster, and is sentenced to 15 years of hard labour. He is believed to have slipped into a coma shortly after his trial.
  • Early June 2017 - US officials and Mr Warmbier's parents are told about his condition
  • 13 June 2017 -He is released from North Korea and medically evacuated to the US. Doctors say he has suffered a severe brain injury.
  • 19 June 2017 - Mr Warmbier dies.

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